Thursday, March 31, 2011

Caprice Hokstad interview

Please welcome Mrs. Hokstad, author of The Duke's Handmaid and Nor Iron Bars a Cage! Feel free to leave comments for her!

NA: Welcome! What drew you to write fantasy fiction?

CH: I needed to have a setting that was different from any known place or time. I like the freedom of making up my own rules for how society works and things like that.

NA: What is unique in The Duke’s Handmaid and Nor Iron Bars A Cage compared to other fantasy?

CH:  Very little magic. No epic "save the world" quest (NIBAC has a quest, but it's about saving one little boy, not 'civilization as we know it'). The heroine isn't masculinized into a warrior, nor is she merely a victim to be rescued. She's strong, but not in a physical way.

NA: Where did this story come from?

CH: My weird imagination. I did have some character help for the hero from an old friend with whom I've lost contact. :(

NA: Were there smaller influences that came into the books?

CH: None that I can think of off-hand.

NA: As you look back on writing those books, what challenged you the most?

CH: I had to do a lot of re-writing because my first draft was written when I didn't know all the "commercial rules" like the public's current dislike of omniscient point of view. I had to be willing to take what I learned and apply it, even though it made a lot of extra work.

NA: Which character was the hardest to write?

CH:  Most of my minor characters are hard because I need to make them more than cardboard cutouts, without stealing a scene or chapter, or taking over. Timmilina actually started as a minor character that took over and readers liked her, so I gave her a bigger part in the second book.

NA: Which character was the easiest to write?

CH:  Vahn. He's the star of the show and my favorite, so yeah, he's easiest.

NA: If you could be any character in your books, who would it be?

CH: Kee, of course! Unfortunately, I'm probably more like Saerula, the villainess.

NA: Why did you choose to include the slave-master theme in your stories?

CH: For one thing, it's different.  I think there are parallels with boss/employee, God/Christian and maybe a few with husband/wife. The master/slave relationship gives me a unique way of allegorizing some truths that aren't really explored that much in fiction.

NA: If your books were made into a movie, would you have any preferred actor, director, composer, etc?

CH: I have a list of my preferred actors at Of course, I'd love John Williams to compose (yeah, talk about dreaming). I wouldn't even begin to worry about directors though.

NA: Can you tell us three things about yourself we readers may not know?

CH: 1) I'm obsessed with anything related to the ocean, especially marine mammals and submarines. 2) I love chocolate. 3) I only watch two hours a week of TV (NCIS and NCIS Los Angeles) and I don't listen to the radio at all.

NA: Can you give us any information on the future of the series?

CH: Well, if the first two books sell well, I will write the third book. I have not named it yet, but I have it outlined.

NA: Do you have any future book plans or ideas?

CH: I do have an undersea science fiction idea I'd like to write, but so far, I haven't come up with good characters to pull off my plot and live in my setting. Until I have the right characters, that novel can't happen. I am writing a lot with someone else's characters (fanfiction) in the meantime. My seaQuest DSV novels are available free online at

NA: Do you have any advice to those about writing fantasy?

CH: You do NOT have to follow everyone else's rules. Be original. Be different. And if at all possible, use dragons. They sell easier.

NA: It’s been great to have you! Do you have any final words for our readers?

CH: Nope. Thanks for having me, Noah.

Check out Mrs. Hokstad's website!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I need your help

I am participating in a contest with Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers, and I need your help. The student with the highest ranked review posted on their website for this month wins an iPhone and sunscreen (strange prize, I know). If you could take a minute to click on the link below, read the review, and rate it 1-5 stars, I would be extremely grateful. (or you can just rate it here) I need as many ratings as I can get. Thanks!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Resurrection

The Resurrection, Mike Duran, Realms, Suspense, 2011, 307 pages.

Synopsis: When Ruby Case, an unassuming crippled woman, inexplicably raises a boy from the dead, she creates uproar in the quiet coastal town of Stonetree. Some brand her a witch, others a miracle worker. Yet Reverend Ian Clark could care less. Dogged by demons and immersed in self-pity, Clark is being unwittingly drawn into a secret religious order--one that threatens his very life. But he's about to get a wake-up call.

Together, Ruby and Reverend Clark are thrust into a search for answers... and a collision with unspeakable darkness. For behind the quaint tourist shops and artist colonies lies a history of deceit. And a presence more malignant than anything they can imagine. Yet a battle is brewing, the resurrection is the first volley, and the unlikely duo are the only ones who can save them. But can they overcome their own brokenness in time to stop the evil, or will they be its next victim?

My thoughts: This book is a thrill ride, to be sure. However, instead of a rushing wind-in-your-face type of ride, it builds up suspense for the final thrill. Then, at the end, it takes you up at a steep pace through a tunnel. Then you exit the tunnel, and are suspended above the ride, showing you a full view of the whole story. Suddenly, you are on an unstoppable drop toward the climax, and you have no idea how it will end. It was a marvelous rush! I started to get bored with the book, but looking back the dread and suspense it bestowed owed to the masterpiece plot a great deal.

I was able to connect with the characters a great deal. Reverend Ian Clark is living with his secrets, doubting his own sincerity, and searching for the answers. Ruby Case is a normal country woman suddenly hoisted into everyone's view when she unwittingly raises a boy from the dead. She must cope with the stress and also search for answers.

This is a worthy book to buy, if you are not uncomfortable with the unknown.

Rating: 4.5 stars

This book was provided free by CSFF Blog Tour. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.

Other Participants:

Noah Arsenault
Brandon Barr
Red Bissell
Book Reviews By Molly
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Wanda Costinak
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Janey DeMeo
Cynthia Dyer
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McNear
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Andrea Schultz
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Dave Wilson

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

This week, my school is having it's annual theatrical production: Much Ado About Nothing, by Shakespeare, and I am part of the cast! We haven't had much time to rehearse, but I think it will go along well. The reason I am bringing it up is because I would like to invite anyone who lives nearby to come see it. We will perform this Thursday and Friday only, each starting at 7:30. We will perform at Covenant High School, which is also Faith Presbyterian Church (620 S Shirley Street, Tacoma, WA 98465). The ticket prices are $4 for adults, $2 for students, and free for 13 and under. I'd love to see you there!!

Friday, March 18, 2011


Warrior, Dragons of Starlight, Bryan Davis, Zondervan, Fantasy, 2011, 421 pages.

Synopsis: The dragon prince has hatched in book two of the Dragons of Starlight series, the stakes are raised when the foretold prince is crowned. While Koren and Jason race to the Northlands of Starlight to find the one person who can help them free the human slaves, Elyssa and Wallace strive to convince the captives that freedom is possible. Soon, all four discover that the secrets of Starlight extend much further than they had imagined. Meanwhile, Randall and Tybalt have returned to Major Four and struggle against the dragon Magnar, who has arrived to manipulate the governor. No one knows how the prophecy will be fulfilled, but one thing is clear: more than ever, the survival of the dragons depends on humankind, and they will do anything to prevent the slaves from escaping.

My thoughts: This book was a good one. It had Davis’s iconic element of a complex plot, but was very understandable. I did feel, though, that not much was accomplished by the protagonists in regard to the series. Granted, they went many places and did many things, but there were few shocking, secret-revealing moments. Perhaps Davis is merely setting up plot for his next book, Diviner? In any case, the writing was excellent, and the characters were very human, in the case of the humans, that is. The dragons kept perplexing me, but then again, they are not meant to reason as humans do. Davis has done a wonderful job in creating a species not limited to human personality. I recommend this book, and I look forward to the next!

*This book was provided free by Zondervan Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*

Rating: 5 stars

Upcoming reviews
  • The Resurrection by Mike Duran
  • Decision Points by George W. Bush
Buy Warrior!
Check out more Christian fantasy!
Check out Bryan Davis' website!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Missing Person"

Here is a selection from Michael W. Smith's 1998 album, Live The Life. Great song.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Steve Groll Giveaway

Fantasy author Steve Groll has graciously offered to provide a paperback copy of his book, Beyond the Dead Forest, as well as an audiobook copy (one winner only) for a giveaway!

Any comments should include an email in no-spam form. [johndoe(at)example(dot)com]
Open to U.S. and Canada residents only.
  1. You must do this to be eligible for any other points. You can follow this blog. A follower widget is located on the blog's sidebar. (earns 1 entry)
  2. You can post about this giveaway on your blog. Comments MUST have a link. Limited to once a week. (earns 2 entries)
  3. If someone comes to this blog from your blog post and comments, you get one extra entry. (Make sure to tell them to say you sent them!)
  4. You can tweet with a link to this post. Comments MUST have a link. Limited to once a day (earns 1 entry each)
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  6. You can read any of my reviews or interviews on this blog and comment on it, as long as you have not already done so on it for another giveaway. (earns 1 entry each)
  7. You may link to this giveaway on facebook. Comments don't require links, since I am not a member of facebook. However, you must email me an image of your status. My email is manuscriptna(at)gmail(dot)com. Limited to once a day. (earns 1 entry each)
This giveaway ends Saturday, April 9th, 11:59 PM PST

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Steve Groll interview

NA: Welcome! What drew you to write fantasy fiction?


SG: From an early age, TV shows like the Twilight Zone fascinated me. As a boy I was never good at sports or the arts, and I was not popular. Macabre short stories and books like The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and A Wrinkle in Time became my escape and my good friends. Eventually I discovered I had a talent that others appreciated. When my Boy Scout troop went on campouts, they wanted me to tell scary stories as we lay in our sleeping bags at night. Armed with a head full of scary short stories, I became the unofficial story teller. So, fantasy fiction was something that I enjoyed, befriended, and eventually gave me a means to fit in.

NA: What is unique in Beyond the Dead Forest compared to other fantasy?

SG: It is a bit darker and has more of a Twilight Zone flavor to it than the average fantasy. There is a blending of the reality we are familiar with into a world where demonic evil has twisted and corrupted reality to such an extent that human kindness is the rare exception. The challenges and testing situations that the two twelve-year-old heroes struggle with on their quest are based on Biblical stories and teachings. Their task is to grow in Godly wisdom as they travel through Dearth (the land beyond the dead forest) in the hope that they will be able to undo the damage caused by the forces of evil.

NA: Where did this story idea come from?

SG: When I was a teen, the teacher of our Sunday school class spent the entire hour just reading the Bible to us. That experience inspired me to never subject children to that approach. Of all the creative techniques I use to teach God’s word to children, story telling is one of the most effective. Remembering as kids how much we enjoyed scary stories, I write and tell my own suspenseful teaching stories that illustrate morals or Biblical principles to my students. Eventually, I used the material I developed to write a novel that would be both entertaining and educational. Now, some teachers are using my book to teach positive values. In fact, since there is no mention of God or the Bible in the book, Christians give it to non-churched friends. It sparks conversations because it illustrates Biblical truth without being preachy.

NA: Were there any smaller influences that came into the books?

SG: The children I have worked with over the years have taught me a lot. They are my inspiration, the reason I started writing, and the reason I keep on writing.

NA: As you look back on writing Beyond the Dead Forest, what challenged you the most?

SG: The biggest challenge was making the novel about more than just the main characters being on a mission of personal growth. The story had to be about something bigger, something that would significantly effect the whole of Dearth. One of the things my editor helped me with the most was making the book more plot driven.

NA: Which character was the hardest to write?

SG: The main characters, Carter and Kat, are best friends who like to explore together. The hardest character for me to write was Kat. A middle-aged man trying to write a twelve-year-old girl that other young girls can relate to is a bit of a challenge. Perhaps I succeeded because I have had no complaints from the girls. But I have had girls, both young and old, tell me that Beyond the Dead Forest is their favorite book.

NA: Which character was the easiest to write?

SG: Carter was easier to write since I was a young boy myself once. Carter got some of my personality, but Carter is smarter and braver than I was at his age.

NA: If you could be any character in your books, who would it be?

SG: I would have to say Carter. He is more what I would like to have been at twelve.

NA: Do you read Pilgrim’s Progress often?

SG: I am familiar with it and have read parts of it, but I haven’t read the entire story yet.

NA: If your books were made into a movie, would you have any preferred actor, director, composer, etc?

 SG: Dreaming really big, I would love to have David Yates who directed Harry Potter and Nicholas Hooper the composer for Half-Blood Prince handle my story.

NA: Can you tell us three things about yourself we readers may not know?

SG: 1. I played clarinet in my high school band. 2. The first thing I ever got published was a computer game called “Microids” in a 1983 edition of Antic Magazine for the old Atari home computers. 3. I have two wonderful grandsons, Ethan and Kyle.

NA: Do you have any future book plans or ideas?

SG: Beyond the Dead Forest is my first novel, and it may be my last. But if I do anything else it will be a sequel. I have new short stories using the Carter and Kat characters, and I am playing around with some ideas about what they might be up to next.

NA: Do you have any advice to those about writing fantasy?

SG: First, let me suggest the obvious. Read fantasy literature, both the classics and the new things that are hot. Become familiar with the proper form of writing fiction. Read things on writing like Stephen King’s “On Writing.” Second, don’t be afraid to experiment. Some people need to outline and work everything out before they start a book. Others just need to start writing and see where they end up. Use your imagination and try to think “outside the box.” Play around with ideas no matter how outrageous or bizarre they might be. You just might hit on something new and exciting. Third, have fun! If you do not have fun writing, you will likely give up on it.

Thank you, Noah, for this opportunity to share about my book on your blog. And I want to thank all of you who took the time to read this interview. If you would like to read some of my teaching short stories or get to know more about Beyond the Dead Forest you can visit my page at

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Diviner cover art!

I think it's better than the Warrior cover art! The dragon detail is awesome!!